It’s hard to believe I’m approaching my first year as a published writer. The journey has felt like a roller coaster, with a lot of ups and downs, moments of panic, and wondering if the world will stop spinning. It was a crazy year! Looking back, here are three things I learned during the ride:
1) Not everyone is going to like your book. Ouch. I knew that, but it is different when you experience it. It took some time to get over the fact that not everyone would enjoy my work, whether because of style differences, genre differences, etc. But I learned to move on. After all, I don’t enjoy everything I read either, and I should allow people their differences.
2) Don’t read your reviews. That was a hard one for me to learn. I could have 12 positive reviews and one negative one and guess which one I would focus on? Yep. It’s like having a stain on your favorite shirt. No matter how much you try to ignore it and not let it get under your skin, your eyes keep coming back to it. Finally after a couple months, I decided not to look at my reviews at all. I figured reviews were there for the readers anyway, not for me. I had written the book to the best of my ability. That’s about all a person can do. Once I stopped looking at my reviews, I found peace.
3) It’s not so much about developing tough skin as it is about guarding your heart. I never liked the idea of developing tough skin. It felt like I was hardening my heart as well. And since I write from my heart, I couldn’t let that grow hard or the soul of my writing would suffer. But in letting my heart remain soft, I allowed it to be hurt.
After months of hurting, I finally asked my husband how he dealt with all the negativity in his life. As a pastor he receives a lot of criticism and yet I hardly ever saw it affect him. So he shared with me how he guarded his heart. He imagines his heart is a castle. He only allows 2 voices into that castle: God and me (since I am his wife). Then there is a wall, and within the courtyard he allows the voices of his most trusted friends. Then there is a moat and there he allows friends and acquaintances.
When he shared this with me, I realized how many voices I was allowing into the very heart of me, voices that really had no business being there. And by listening to all those voices, I wasn’t hearing the ones I needed to hear.
So I put his idea into action. One day I had someone tell me I wasn’t good at grammar. I’m not. It is one of the weakest areas in my writing. But then I imagined my heart. Her voice had no business inside my castle. Yes, she was right, but I already knew that. What I didn’t need is her voice echoing around inside my heart, reminding me over and over again of that fact. Instead, I needed to acknowledge the truth of her words, but not let her over the moat.
My heart remained soft, but not damaged.
Being a writer is the hardest thing I have ever done (apart from being a parent). I confess: if I knew it would be this hard, I would have probably given up a long time ago. But I would have also missed the joy of being creative, of sharing my heart with people, and seeing a dream come true.
How about you? What have you learned, either from a new job, a new relationship, or a new way of life? What were the struggles? How did you overcome them?